Libraries are Starting to Eliminate Late Fees. Does RFID Technology Play a Role?

by Dan Schaefer

Didn’t get a chance to finish S. Morgenstern’s “Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure” over your summer break, but the looming threat of late fees has you apprehensive about stopping by the library? We’ve got some great news for you. Libraries across the country are doing away with late fees and the reason might surprise you.

RFID is a technology that uses a radio frequency antenna to communicate with tagged items, such as books, DVDs, and other media commonly. But, how does this technology actually help eliminate late fees, that scourge of library cardholders?

How Libraries Use RFID

Most libraries today use RFID technology for check-in/check-out purposes. I can take a stack of books and place them in a kiosk. The RFID tags on the books are read by scanners in the kiosk, and voila, I’m ready to check out.

When returning the books, they’re placed on a conveyor and automatically checked back in as they pass by a fixed scanner/portal.

And of course, books within a library are sometimes shelved in the wrong area (I didn’t do it). Rather than being lost for weeks on end, a library attendant can use a handheld scanner to perform a periodic inventory to identify any misplaced books. Prior to using RFID, it could take weeks or months before misplaced books could be found. Today, they can be found within minutes.

Just like libraries, RFID technology systems are being used in law, medical, and other offices for check-in / check-out, inventory, and asset location purposes. Fixed readers near doorways can also be used to track these items as they pass through.

Getting Started with RFID

If you’re considering implementing RFID to track files, IT assets, equipment, pallets or whatever, the three main components you’ll need are:

  1. Asset tags
  2. RFID scanner/readers
  3. Software to make use of and report on the tag reads.

It’s important to note that not all RFID tags perform the same. Some are better suited for certain environments than others. And, liquids, metals, and other material can shield tags from being read at all.

In general, you can expect something in the range of 10 – 100 times more time savings by using RFID vs manual processes for tracking. And, if theft is an issue, portals at entry/exit points can identify when a tagged item passes through — a feature that is especially useful when used alongside security cameras.

But, Why are Libraries Eliminating Late Fees?

Back to the question at hand: Why are libraries now eliminating late fees? Could it be that they’re now more efficient by using RFID technology? It’s true that libraries can be much more efficient with RFID technology, however late fees are being eliminated at libraries across the U.S. because it creates goodwill and encourages patrons to use the library more. Thank you, libraries, for making this fantastic change. It has made my week!

Here at EnaSys we offer a complete RFID asset tracking solution — asset tags, scanners/readers and software. We love providing cost effective asset tracking solutions. If you’d like to discuss your asset tracking needs, call us today at 800-522-3528, or send us an email at

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